Riccardo Muti Conducts Brahms 1 & 2

The CSO’s traversal of the four symphonies by Johannes Brahms began last night, with Maestro Muti conducting the first and the second symphonies to start off the cycle. After a couple of open rehearsals featuring Brahms 3 and 4, last seasons’ Brahms 2 with Maestro Yuri Temirkanov, I’ve definitely been looking forward to this performance and next week’s performances of the third and fourth symphonies.

The dramatic energy and Romantic-era melodies (albeit with Classical-era structures) of Brahms 1st was fully developed last night, and served as a great way to begin the cycle. It might be easy to get lost within this gigantic symphony, but the great thing about Maestro Muti is that he always clearly brings out the musical line, but not at the expense of losing the full and rich sounds that the whole orchestra produces, if that makes any sense haha. In other words, the sound is never muddled or confusing – people have often mentioned this with regards to Maestro Muti’s interpretations of Verdi’s operas (such as in the NYT article about last year’s Falstaff …cannot believe it’s already been a year!) – but I think the same can just as easily be said for his interpretations of the core symphonic repertoire.

While there is a usual tendency to portray the Brahms 2nd in an overly bucolic manner (the pre-performance lecturer kept saying that it was a pastoral symphony…), Maestro Muti never made it seem like that, which made for a much more interesting interpretation! As he said on Sunday, there should not be any “sunshine” within Brahms’ music, and rather, the music should be played with a certain “cloudiness”. The inherent melancholiness and intensity present within Brahms’ music never diminished in the performance last night, and was, in my opinion, enhanced by the CSO’s fluidity in sound dynamics and Maestro Muti’s ability to draw “liederistic” and singing qualities from the orchestra. I’m definitely looking forward to next week’s performances of the Brahms 3 and 4, and I’m going to catch the last performance of the first and second- just to have the experience all over again 😀

In other news, I came across this pretty cool video of an interview with Maestro Muti about the CSO’s performances next season at UC Berkeley – pretty insightful stuff!



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